One of the things I have noticed about foraging for mushrooms is how easy it is to find the second one. I have spent whole days out looking for mushrooms and not found anything and then I see one. After I pick It I start seeing them everywhere. Last year was the first year I had ever found a hen of the woods mushroom. What I had read about Hens is that they tend to grow back in the same spot for several years in a row. I kept track of the date I found that one last year and headed back to the same spot this year to see if it was true.
With very little effort I walked right to the same spot this year and there she was a nice Hen of the woods mushroom ready of r the picking. As I walked out of the woods My eye was Immediately drawn to the mushroom you see in the picture at the top. I was about 60 yards away and there it was plain as day. I came home that day with about 12 pounds of Hen of the woods. ( also known as Maitake)
Then a couple of days ago I was out squirrel hunting with a friend of mine. As we were walking up the hill on the back side of his property I walked right into and old oak stump with a giant Maitake hanging off the side. Now that I have seen them and found a few I feel like I could go out and find them anytime.
The Maitake is a great mushroom with a great texture and many uses and when you find one you usually have plenty to use and store for later use. I like to dehydrate some and freeze the rest. When I freeze them I pack the mushrooms into one quart freezer safe container and then cover them with water and a teaspoon of salt. Then when you thaw them out to use them the water you put in has magically turned into a mushroom stock of sorts.
As far as using them goes I like to add them to soups and stews and I am currently working on a batch that I will be using as a tamales filling. When they are fresh and you have picked them over a little I like to roast them and serve them as an appetizer with a lemon garlic Aioli.
Roasted hen of the woods
1 pound of Hen of the woods cleaned and picked over
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons bacon drippings
3 sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper to taste
Toss the mushrooms with the oil, bacon drippings, salt, pepper and thyme and then bake in a 325 degree oven for 50-60 minutes.
for the Aioli
1/2 cup mayo
juice and zest from one lemon
2 cloves of garlic finely minced
salt and pepper to taste
Serve the mushrooms with the aioli and enjoy.